Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)

Verse 206

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Session 212

Chapter 2

Verses 206

When he is told, ‘Beware of God,’ pride in sin takes hold of him. Hell is sufficient for him: a dreadful resting place. (Chapter 2: Verse 206)

In the previous verses, we discussed hypocrisy in the Muslim society of Medina.  We mentioned the story of Al-Akhnas who pretended to have faith, said what pleased the Muslims, yet worked to damage crops and livestock.  Hypocrisy was a sign of a strengthening Muslim society because the enemies of Islam no longer wished to confront it directly with force; rather they now preferred to hide and damage it from within.  

The Muslims, however, were vigilant to those who might have malicious intents within the society.  More importantly, Prophet Muhammad -peace be upon him- and his companions had the Lord on their side informing them of those who wished them ill.  The verse under study is one proof to this fact.  God says: 

When he is told, ‘Beware of God,’ pride in sin takes hold of him. Hell is sufficient for him: a dreadful resting place. (Chapter 2: Verse 206)

You would not say to a person “Hey man, why don’t you fear God” unless you know that he is acting in a way not appropriate for a believer.  We understand from this verse that a believer should be alert and should measure actions around him or her according to God’s teachings.  You should not surrender you mind, act without thinking, and blindly accept what you are told in the media.  You should not rely on divine inspiration to show you the truth; rather, you should have your own identity and put your mind to work in all matters around you. 

When someone is told: "Fear God" it indicates that the person’s actions at the time contradict what is right regardless of what he or she is saying.   The old adage: “actions speak louder than words” comes to mind.  A person may be praying in the first row; he or she may talk passionately about religious issues, but it is his or her actions towards others that count.  Your advice to someone to “fear God” means that you are asking him or her to act righteously.  It is not enough to say the right things or speak what others like.  God wants your deeds to reflect what is in your heart.

The believer must be intelligent and socially astute in order to weigh the true actions of others, rather than take matters at face value.  Pleasing words have to be backed up by proper actions.  More importantly, if you suspect that someone is not being true to his or her words, you should bring that fact up to that person in order to limit the time of his or her hypocrisy.  The moment you say: "fear God," the person would understand that his or her hypocrisy has been exposed, and perhaps this would be as a future deterrent. 

This brings us back to the verse: God says: “When he is told, ‘Beware of God,’ pride in sin takes hold of him.”  The association of pride and sin in this verse suggests that pride may also be associated with something other than sin.  God Almighty declared pride for himself, for the Prophet and for the believers.  He says:

They say: “As soon as we return back to Medina, the proud should evict the weak from the city. They do not realize that all pride belongs to God, his messenger and the believers. (63:08)

The pride God declared is pride in the truth and not in sin.  What is the difference between the two, you may ask? Let’s study the Quran to understand the difference.  We start with the story of the magicians that represented Pharaoh against Prophet Moses –peace be upon him-.  God narrates in the Nobel Book:

They threw their ropes and staffs, saying, ‘By Pharaoh’s pride, we shall be victorious.’ (26:44)

This was pride in sin and a total fabrication. In another chapter, God says:

Yet the disbelievers are steeped in pride and hostility. (38:02)

This, also, is a false pride.  But pride in the following verse is different.  God says:

Exalted is your Lord, the Lord of pride, above what they describe. (37:180)

It is real pride because pride is the power that prevails and no one can overcome it.  As for pride in sin, it is false arrogance mired in sin.  God Almighty says to all those who want this sort of pride in sin: if you truly have a pride, then no one should be able to overcome you.  But O Magicians of Pharaoh, O you who have the pride of Pharaoh, you were the ones who fell in prostration before Moses as the following verse illustrates:

They said, ‘We believe in the Lord of all the worlds, the Lord of Moses and Aaron.’ (26:47-48)

Pride in Pharaoh did not benefit you, because it was pride in sin.  Pride in the truth overcame pride in sin.  God further describes the nature of pride in the truth in the following verse:

God will soon replace you with people He loves and who love Him, people who are humble towards the believers, proud on the disbelievers (from 5:54)

Allah informs us that for pride not to be in sin, it must be against the disbelievers.  He says: 

Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Those who follow him are strong towards the disbelievers and compassionate towards each other. You see them kneeling and prostrating, seeking God’s bounty and His good pleasure: on their faces they bear the marks of their prostrations. This is how they are pictured in the Torah and the Gospel: like a seed that puts forth its shoot, becomes strong, grows thick, and rises on its stem to the delight of its sowers. So God infuriates the disbelievers through them; God promises forgiveness and a great reward to those who believe and do righteous deeds. (48:29)

One of the clearest signs of pride in truth is humility in the hour of victory. We have the example of our beloved prophet Muhammad.  Early in the call to Islam, he migrated from Mecca because he could not protect the weak from amongst the believers.  Years later, he –peace be upon him- returned to Mecca victorious.  He entered the city with his head so bowed down in humbleness to God that it almost touched the saddlebow of his mount.  This is pride in truth.  Contrast that to pride in sin which in the case of victory people exercises transgression, humiliation, and devastation towards their enemies.

For such false pride, God prescribes: “Hell is sufficient for him: a dreadful resting place.” Any pride that leads to hellfire is not pride at all; rather it is humiliation.  There is no good in any deed that leads to fire, and there is no evil in any deed that leads to Paradise.  Thus, if you want to be dignified, then consider the ultimate outcome of your actions. 

The phrase ‘resting place’ is translated from the Arabic origin ‘Mihad.’  It refers to a paved and flattened surface that is comfortable for sitting, walking and living.  In fact, a child’s cradle is called ‘Mahd.’  Here, the question that comes to mind: Is the word ‘Mihad’ appropriate for a place like Hellfire? We answer: yes it is, because he who sits in a crib has no strength to leave or even move out of it.  Thus, the person who’s resting place is hellfire, has truly ended up in the most dreadful of resting places.